Health care in The United States is, in many situations, not easily accessible or readily available; this is especially true for mental health care. Due to underfunding and the fact that mental health care is not viewed as a priority, many people around the country are not getting the care they need. Imagine not being able to keep a friend or family member safe and having nowhere nearby to turn; this is a problem that people across the country face every day. Mothers cannot find an inpatient treatment facility close to them so they must send their children to another state, if they are lucky enough to find a facility with any available beds, that is. This nation is facing a health care crisis that must be addressed.

The first time I was hospitalized I was 15. I was taken to the emergency room at our nearest hospital and stayed there for three days. The emergency room is meant for people to go in and out. A CDC study says the average ER visit is about 2 hours. I was there for 72 hours because they could not find an inpatient treatment facility in which to place me. Luckily, an available bed was eventually found at a short-term treatment facility about an hour away from my home. That may seem far, but compared to the distance some travel for treatment it is nothing.

Unfortunately, my stay at the facility was very short; only about a week passed and I was released before receiving a proper diagnosis or getting necessary medications. By the time I was 16 I was back in the emergency room; this time for a suicide attempt. We had to travel about 3 hours to a hospital with available psychiatric beds. I was there for about a week and unfortunately could not see my parents since they had to work and the hospital was so far away. By a pure stroke of luck, I was then able to be placed in a residential treatment facility only about 30 minutes from my house. Some of the other girls at the facility were not as lucky and had come from as far as 12 hours away from home; because of this, they barely got to see their family. This is not a case of them traveling 12 hours to get the best care available, they traveled this far to get the only care available. I count myself lucky that I never had to travel 12 hours to get treatment, but the sad truth is many are not as lucky.

56 percent of all Americans are not getting the mental health care they need, according to an MHA study. More people are lacking the care they need than actually getting it, which is something that can not be ignored. As prevalent as the lack of care may seem now, it is continually decreasing in many places. It seems that many times when budget cuts are made, mental health care is the first to go. This lack of care around the country is concerning. If people do not receive the treatment they need for a mental health condition, they can end up homeless, a danger to themselves and in rare cases a danger to others.

There is also a lack of awareness about the very existence of the issue. This problem must be brought into the public eye. It is important that more news outlets talk about these issues. This can be initiated by hospitals releasing press statements and people writing to reporters about their own experiences in the mental health system, whether they be someone with a mental health condition or a loved one. In addition, people could write to politicians in their area urging them to support mental health units and treatment facilities. Making some noise about this issue would be a great start to dealing with the problem. Everyday people have the power to tell hospitals that mental health care is just as important as any other health care and can lead to devastating results if left untreated.

Sometimes, there simply is a lack of money and tough decisions must be made. However, many times those tough decisions lead to a further decrease in the availability of mental health care. There is, in many cases, not enough money to go around, and sometimes cuts to mental health care must be made. But if mental and behavioral treatment is always the first thing to be cut when funds are low, soon enough there will be barely any facilities left with room to take people.

The lack of mental health care in this country is clearly something that must be addressed and dealt with. Mental health should not be seen as any less important than physical health because, left untreated, both mental and physical illnesses have the ability to take lives. When something is not visible the way a physical illness often is, it is easier to ignore. But this crisis can be ignored no longer. Our country and its people must begin to stand up for those in desperate need of mental health care. People must begin to fight for better treatment and only then will we see an improvement in America's mental health care system.